Something I love about photography is the opportunity to connect with a particular situation and then attempt to tell part of its story within the context of a frame. As photographers, often our first and most natural response to experiencing a particular emotion is to grab our camera and create art. Not only is capturing an image therapeutic and beneficial to your own soul, but the gift of photography is something that we can so easily share with others. During this time of year, we’re all paying a little closer attention to how we can extend kindness and charity to those around us, and sharing through photography is a perfect way to make an impact on our communities. Here are a few simple ways to make a difference in the lives of others with your talents, vision, and photographic skills.

Informally gift someone whose story touches you with meaningful images.

Gifting images, whether just a couple or even an entire dedicated session, is a beautiful way to give someone a lasting memory they weren’t able to capture on their own. Kelly Morrison recently shared on the CM forum a picture she took of one of her kindergarteners who is an autistic student. It is a sweet image on its own, but knowing that this boy generally avoids eye contact with others and does not smile often makes the picture even more extraordinary. You can imagine the valuable gift Kelly was able to give to his mom by sharing this photo with her.

Have clients, friends and fans nominate a deserving family to receive a session.

Let others share the stories of people they know who are especially deserving of an experience with custom photography yet would not be able to purchase something like this on their own. Then from the pool of nominations, select one of those deserving nominees and gift them with a session and perhaps even products from your time together. Beira Brown does just this and then also rewards the family that nominates the winner with a generous gift certificate to put towards their own future session.

Create your own event and donate your proceeds to a charity.

Use your position as a photographer to bring people together for the purpose of raising funds for a cause that touches you. Molly Burpo of Bloom Photography decided to create awareness of adoption and help others in their attempt to bring an orphaned child into their family by hosting a special mini-session event. On a particular day in the spring, she scheduled portrait appointments and the clients brought with them a $300 check to her church’s adoption fund.

Donate a session to a charity.

There are so many organizations that look for donations they can use to raise money for their cause. Schools, hospitals, and other community groups often have silent auctions and appreciate valuable donations like custom photography sessions. You can set the guidelines you need to still fit within your business model, and the charity reaps the monetary reward of the auction bids. Each year, Jenna Stoller donates a portrait session to Loving Shepherd Ministries, an organization that helps women make a life outside of prostitution, in hopes to raise money and awareness for what LSM does all over the world.

Volunteer your services to photograph an event.

A diabetic herself, Kelly Garvey gives back to an organization dear to her heart by volunteering to photograph the Houston JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes. There amidst the young fighters and their families, she takes a photojournalistic approach to the event, documenting the various details and emotions weaved throughout the morning.

Work with an organization that coordinates photographers and causes.

There are many organizations that link photographers with those with special circumstances who would greatly benefit from photography services. These organizations serve as a wonderful conduit to bring together photographers and clients while also increasing awareness of their particular cause. Through Operation: Love (“OpLove”), Amanda McGhee of Kimberlin Gray Photography documents military homecomings and gifts the families of US soldiers with treasured images of those special first moments of their reunions.

I am encouraged to see so many photographers giving both their time and their talents to share some of what they have with others. It’s the perfect season to reflect on what touches you and how you can make a difference around you in the new year. I am personally challenging myself to create some giving goals for 2012, and I’m excited about exploring ways, both big and small, I can use what I’ve been given to brighten the world around me.

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